LAGOS – Nigeria's government pledged Saturday to try to address security issues the Trump administration cited in its decision to stop granting immigration visas to people from Africa's most populous nation.
Immigrants from Nigeria and three other countries no longer will be eligible for visas allowing them to live in the United States permanently, the White House said Friday.
They would still qualify for tourist and business visas, but Nigerians rarely are granted those now because the U.S. says too many visitors from the West African country overstay their visas.
Nigerians, who have long decried the visa application processes in both the United States and Europe as racist, expressed disbelief and anger after the Trump administration announced the new policy, which takes effect Feb. 21.
Okorafor Chimedu, a 29-year-old teacher in Warri, Nigeria, called it a “collective punishment.” Chimedu has a university degree and relatives already living in the United States to sponsor him but knows his odds of relocating are now slim unless something changes.
“I hope the two nations will rectify their differences soon so that the ban can be lifted," he said. "We need each other to progress in this world. No man is an island of his own.”
The U.S. government said it decided to impose new visa restrictions on a total of six more countries that failed to meet minimum security requirements for verifying travelers' identities and whether individuals posed a national security threat.
Immigrant visas were targeted because people with those visas are the most difficult to remove after they arrive in the United States, U.S. officials said.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhar has established a committee “to study and address the updated U.S. requirements,” presidential spokesman Femi Adesina said Saturday.
“The committee will work with the U.S. government, Interpol and other stakeholders to ensure all updates are properly implemented,” Adesina said in a statement.
Others, including the opposition candidate who finished second in official results from Nigeria's presidential election last year, blamed Buhari for the U.S. move.
People's Democratic Party candidate Atiku Abubakar said the United States instead should “consider adopting measures that individually target those in government who have failed in their duties, rather than target the entire Nigerian population.”
The U.S. travel restrictions come at a time of growing insecurity in Nigeria. The country's military is still battling a decade-long insurgency by with the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram in the northeast, and also now confronts a breakaway faction that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.
Nigeria, the seventh-most populous nation in the world with more than 200 million people, is expected to see that figure double by 2050.
Associated Press writer Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal contributed.